The Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia is a humid tropical region which is home to over twenty distinct cultural groups – the most found in such a small region anywhere on Earth. Visitors come to the valley to enjoy cultural tours, visiting local markets and witness traditional ceremonies. The Omo valley is the destination for a tour in Ethiopia to experience authentic Ethiopian culture.
Most visitors come to Ethiopia between November to February which is when the weather is dry, making visiting the churches of the north and the Omo Valley more accessible. However, this is generally a hot time in the Omo Valley, but the rains have not yet come.
The tribes of the Omo Valley can be roughly divided into two groups, the pastoralists and the agriculturalists. Tours will visit many different tribes while in the region, as well as a couple of markets and perhaps a traditional ceremony. These tribes still live authentically, and the ceremonies are not put on for tourists. To make the most of visiting the tribes, it is advised to spend about 4 – 7 days visiting the area. Some tribes only allow visitors to their communities on certain days. Visitors should have local guides who have the contacts within the tribes which will allow visitors to have an authentic meaningful experience. These guides also speak English and act as interpreters between visitors and the local community.
Some of the tribe’s visitors may see include:
The Konso Tribe – known for building villages with stone walls and pottery ornamentation
The Daasanach People – this nomadic tribe live on the banks of the Omo River in homes which can be collapsed, moved and reassembled in just a couple of hours.
The Mursi Tribe – perhaps the most famous group living in the Omo Valley as the women are famous for the huge pottery lip plates which they wear. Supposedly started as it made them less attractive to slavers during the 18th century.
The Karo Tribe – are known for painting their bodies with elaborate patterns in white paint.
The Hamar Tribe – have similar practices to the Himba tribe in Namibia and paint their bodies and hair with red ochre. They are also known for their beautiful jewellery. The men of this tribe are famous for the bull jumping ceremony to mark a young man’s transition from boyhood to manhood.
Access: How to get to Omo Valley
The closest points to fly into include Arba Minch and Jinka which have domestic terminals and visitors can fly in from Addis Ababa. Otherwise, the journey by road can take as long as 2 days from Addis Ababa. A local guide will meet visitors at the airport and then drive them to the various tribes in the Omo Valley.
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